Many lifters think of this exercise as a “finishing” movement rather than as a mass builder—but I totally disagree. Two of the best ways to cause microtears within muscle fibers (which then need to be repaired bigger and stronger) are through a deep stretch and an intense peak contraction, which the pec deck provides on every rep! Make sure to keep the elbows up and in line with the hands throughout the set in order to maximize pectoral activation.
VALUABLE VARIATION(S) Move the seat higher or lower to more effectively target muscle fibers in sternal or clavicular pectorals.
For me the hack squat machine has contributed far more muscle mass to my quads than barbell squats ever did. One of its greatest advantages is that you are able to go heavy on this exercise without having to worry too much about straining the lower back. The hack squat removes much of the glute and hip activation from the movement, allowing for a more direct strike to the quads. Additionally, there is little pressure on the neck even when piling on the plates, while lowering deep “into the hole” is less of a safety hazard.
VALUABLE VARIATION(S) Move the feet higher or lower on the platform to slightly change fiber-recruitment patterns. Go with a wide or narrow stance to switch emphasis from inner (vastus medialis, adductors) to outer thigh (vastus lateralis). Also, give reverse hack squats a try when looking to focus more on development in the glutes.
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